Scientists have just found warping in the Kuiper Belt that suggests there might be a tenth planet.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

The bodies of the Kuiper Belt out beyond Pluto are small and far away, but they have a lot to tell us. Namely, their orbits speak volumes, and a new study is hinting that there might be a gravitational mass lurking out in this distant region of our solar system. Some people are saying it's possibly a tenth planet. But, that might be a bit premature.

On the whole, our solar system is pretty neatly organized. All the planets orbit more or less in line with each other. They average out to be right along what's called the "invariable plane", the imaginary line that runs right through the middle of the Sun.

Typically, the further away from the Sun, the more orbits deviate from the invariable plane. Just look at this map of known Oort cloud object, lying some 5,000 to 100,000 AU from the Sun, for an example.  Relatively closer to the Sun in the Kuiper Belt, which is only about 30 to 55 AU from the Sun, bodies orbit pretty regularly. They should look sort of like a flat sheet. Which bring us to the alleged Planet Ten...

Researchers from the University of Arizona noticed that over 600 of the more distant Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs, have orbits inclined from the invariable plane by, on average, about 8 degrees.  It's a subtle deviation, but also significant enough to suggest that something big must be warping those orbits. They're far enough from the Sun that another gravitational mass could be responsible.

 

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